The English writer Graham Greene famously grouped his early fiction into two categories: “novels” and “entertainments.” He reserved the first designation for books he judged to be serious works of literature, contemplative Catholic novels like The Power and the Glory (1940). The second category included escapist narratives, spy thrillers such as The Ministry of Fear (1943). Greene eventually abandoned this distinction, realizing perhaps that his best books troubled easy categorization, but a similar dichotomy has stigmatized modern spy fiction since its inception at the turn of the twentieth century, and the genre has been relegated to (at best) the ranks of the middlebrow and largely excluded from academic discourse. When full-length treatments of espionage fiction began to appear in the last quarter of the last century, they tended to offer themselves either as genre studies, thereby reinforcing old hierarchies of literary value, or as...

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